Westchester County has submitted a revised implementation plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and to the federal monitor.
The federal monitor is overseeing the county’s compliance with last year’s settlement of the fair and affordable housing lawsuit.
The revisions were produced after a series of discussions with James E. Johnson, the federal monitor overseeing the settlement, and representatives of HUD. Johnson asked for the revisions in February, saying the county’s initial submission lacked enough specific details in certain areas.
“Our conversations with the federal monitor and his team over the past month have been constructive and helpful,” said Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett. “We have a complex task in front of us. Getting the implementation plan right is critically important because it sets the framework for all the pieces necessary to build the housing units and comply with the settlement. We look forward to the monitor’s response and will continue to work closely with him and his team.”
The settlement was entered into by former County Executive Andrew Spano and approved by a majority of the Board of Legislators. It requires the county to build 750 units of new housing in 31 communities and to undertake marketing that ensures outreach to racially and ethnically diverse households.
Today’s submission meets the deadline set by the federal monitor. He can now accept the implementation plan, reject it, or ask for further modifications. No date has been set for when he will complete his review.
The revised document and its many attachments are found at www.westchestergov.com/housingsettlement.
The implementation plan does not specifically detail where the housing will be built – just the process on how decisions will be made. As required by the settlement, the plan also includes tools – such as new policies and marketing initiatives – to assist the county in promoting fair and affordable housing opportunities within Westchester.
Under terms of the agreement, the county paid the federal government $30 million, of which the government returned $21.6 million to the county’s HUD account to be used to build the units in the communities identified in the settlement. In addition to these funds, the county agreed to add $30 million to its capital budget to build this fair and affordable housing over the next seven years.
The revisions in the implementation plan cover such areas as:
- Selection criteria: Provides more details around the actions the county will take to identify sites and developers. This includes a more thorough assessment of vacant parcels in eligible communities. For example: information about proximity to public transportation and access to public sewers and water has been added. A series of maps has also been added to the plan, which include a review of blocks with the lowest numbers of African American and Hispanic residents.
- Financing: Outlines the ways the county will leverage the $51.6 million in the settlement to acquire properties, clear and demolish outdated structures, provide infrastructure support to new units and rehabilitate existing units.
- Development process: Provides a general framework around the steps needed to move projects forward, including reviews of environmental considerations, as well as limitations placed on rehabilitating existing units.
- Management: Identifies the responsibilities that the staff members of Westchester County will have throughout the implementation process. The plan also now includes a more comprehensive summary of the actions taken by the county since August to comply with the settlement.
- Marketing: Describes the roles of the county, municipalities, and developers in affirmatively marketing all new fair and affordable housing developments.
Enforcement: Acknowledges the remedies set forth in the settlement for non-compliance, including legal action if appropriate.
Included in the implementation plan are the following:
- Policy statements adopted by the county committing it to the elimination of discrimination in housing and the promotion of fair housing principles.
- Model zoning ordinance provisions that local governments are being asked to consider. As part of that, the municipalities would agree to adopt policies promoting fair and affordable housing in exchange for future county funds for programs like Legacy/Open Space and Community Development Block Grants.
- Mechanisms to ensure that comprehensive affirmative marketing procedures are in place when housing units become available so that people who are interested in the housing, including racially and ethnically diverse households, have notice and an opportunity to apply.Pblic outreach and advertising plans to better inform the community of fair and affordable housing opportunities throughout the county.